Addressing the Great Resignation in Dentistry: How to Recruit Talent for Your Practice

May 2, 2022

I’m sure that you’ve heard about the “Great Resignation” on the news. To sum up, the start of the COVID-19 pandemic saw a large number of layoffs and furloughs (unpaid leave), which allowed employees to reconsider their careers, work conditions, and long-term goals. The workforce itself has shrunk, whether it is due to potential workers dying of COVID, potential employees taking the time during COVID to start their own businesses, or potential employees wanting a better work-life balance and pursuing part-time or remote work. According to statistics from Indeed, there has been a 183 percent increase in jobs posted and an 11 percent decrease in workers applying for jobs.

Dental offices have been hit especially hard by the Great Resignation. Some examples of challenges that dental offices have experienced include the following:

  • Potential receptionist candidates are deciding to go into other industries where remote work is possible.
  • Dental assistants are in high demand, receiving multiple job offers before they are even out of school.
  • Hygienists are deciding that they want to work fewer hours and have a better work-life balance.

Meanwhile, dentists and office managers are left scrambling to try to find expensive temporary workers or do what most are currently doing: getting by with less staff. This leaves current staff feeling frustrated, overworked, and underappreciated, especially when they know how easy it is to find another position with record-low unemployment.

This is the first in a series of four blogs looking into the recruitment and retention of employees, specifically for dental offices. First, let’s explore recruiting and how you can let potential hires know that you’re looking to fill positions. We’ll dive into prioritizing retention, developing your specific value proposition, and using free resources available to you to find excellent candidates for your dental office.

Prioritize Retention Over Recruitment

First, know that it is cheaper to retain your employees than recruit new ones. According to the Society of Human Resources Management (SHRM), the cost of hiring a new employee is estimated to be somewhere between six to nine months of salary. So if you have a dental assistant at $20 an hour who works 35 hours per week, the cost to replace them is anywhere from $17,000 to $25,000. Many factors go into that cost, including recruiting costs, training the new employee, and lost productivity while the new employee gets up to speed. As a result, it is recommended that you try to retain a good employee who submits their resignation by making a counter-offer, revising their hours, or offering some other incentive like a retention bonus.

If an employee does resign, then you need to start by asking what the practice actually needs. Maybe a dental assistant resigned, but you need more of a dental assistant/receptionist hybrid. This is your opportunity to identify your practice’s precise needs.

Develop Your Practice’s Value Proposition

You also need to focus on your unique value proposition. Why would a patient want to come to your practice, and why would anyone want to work at your practice? Note that every dental office in the world is going to say that they have the best people, but you need to take a critical look at your practice and see what your strengths are:

  • Are you offering a better or somehow different patient experience than others?
  • Are you using better technology to treat adult patients for mild-to-moderate sleep apnea?
  • Do you offer a more flexible working schedule?
  • Do you offer benefits?
  • Are you willing to pay more than competitors?
  • Do you have any paid-time-off policies?

Once you’ve determined what makes you unique to candidates, you should use your existing resources to help find people. Ask your existing employees (especially high performers) for referrals. Consider doing something like offering a $500 or $1,000 bonus if an employee refers someone who is hired. Your current staff knows your culture and will genuinely want to work with people like themselves.

Take Advantage of Social Media and Networking

If your practice has a social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, consider advertising your openings and inviting patients to apply. This is a free resource to use! The other free website to take advantage of is Indeed. Indeed acts as a “job scraper” for Google and other search engines, so anyone searching on Google should be able to find your job on Indeed. You may also want to consider specialty job boards, such as dentalpost.net and ihiredental.com, where openings can be posted for a fee.

Alternatively, you may have to network with local dental assisting and hygiene schools. Note that these schools are receiving a high amount of inquiries from other dental offices struggling for employees, but if you do something special like sending some bagels over to the teaching staff, they may be more inclined to mention your opening when talking to graduates.

By stressing retention at your practice, developing a specific value proposition, and using social media and networking, you’ll be able to find the right fit for your team. Stay tuned for our next post, which will talk about interviewing and the specific steps you should take during the interviewing process to hire the best people for your practice.

About the Author

Tom Nemcek works as the human resources director for Vivos Therapeutics, Inc. He graduated from Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio, with a bachelor’s degree in human resources. Tom has over 13 years of experience working with dental offices; prior to starting with Vivos, Tom ran the human resources department for a dental service organization with over 2,000 employees and 160 dental offices in 14 states. Tom is passionate about creating a dynamic and unique culture in dental offices to set them apart from competitors. Tom currently lives in Dallas, Texas, with his spouse and likes to travel and read in his spare time.